I was really appalled by the Rana Plaza factory collapse back in 2013. It was widely discussed in the media at the time as it was the biggest industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. But also because the factory that collapsed was a garment factory which made cheap clothing for many well known brands in the UK & USA. There’s lots of news articles about the legacy of the collapse but here’s one to make a point: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22476774
The reason I’m explaining this is it highlights an political/ethical issue I’m interested in. Namely how we as “westerners” come by our cheap clothing – the real cost of our massive fashion industry. It was this that I wanted to comment on in my photomontage. I wanted to make a statement about the cost of our obsession with cheap clothing. Now in the case of Rana Plaza it’s clear that health and safety or building safety being ignored was a contributor to the disaster and there are local officials/managers responsible for that. But cheap labour is cheap for a reason it means cutting corners, long work hours, low pay, poor working conditions, poor site maintenance etc. The thing that drives this is consumer demand for cheap & quick fashion. I guess my main aim was to produce an image which showed the cost in human terms of “cheap” fashion or “cheap labour” an made a visual link between our consumerism here in the west and the welfare of those who make our products. So having decided my subject I began a brainstorm for ideas:
Once I was more settled with my ideas I began looking through old magazine and clothing catalogues for images of models for my ‘western’ consumer icon. I then scanned in a number of potential images before editing them in photo shop: I chose these two particular images for different reasons. The image of the man appealed to me because the man was hiding his face/eyes which I thought might work as a visual way of describing people’s ignorance or refusal to look at the issue behind the Rana Plaza tragedy. The image of the lady struck me because of her stance, which looks quite dominant and also how self assured she appeared. My thought was she could visualise western dominance/oppression of poor workers.
I then began looking for images from the Rana Plaza incident that could be juxtaposed beside the images of the models:
The photo above is quite graphic in that you can see the workers trapped in the rubble. Part of me didn’t want to look at or work with that image but I feel like it’s important sometimes to show how harsh the reality of the collapse was and the impact on real lives.
Once I had some images to begin with and some thumbnail sketches I began to try to create something in Photoshop:
Initially attempts were pretty poor but I was really still figuring out how to use Photoshop to create more complex images. Here are examples of me trying out some of the ideas in the thumbnails:
I found it hard to get the scaling of different elements in the image right to create juxtaposition. I also found using colour to reinforce the point I was trying to make quite tricky. It’s clear that I would need more time to practice and get use to trying lots of different elements together. Having said that there are two images that I feel get a bit closer to saying what I want to say:
I feel like the colours work really well here to play the images off each other. Making the background black & white adds to the feeling of distance between the man and the workers in the factory. The red of the man in the foreground also gives that sense of injustice at his hiding from the reality of the situation. I think the text also adds an edgy feel, I chose something that looked quite rough and stark.
The image above was my attempt at creating a double exposure effect. The idea really is to show on the person the real cost or effect of the cheap clothing they might be wearing. I’m not sure how well it comes across and perhaps there needs to be some words to help the viewer connect the image to Rana Plaza but it’s pretty striking. I found a tutorial on-line that helped me to learn how to create a double exposure effect:
I could spend much more time working on these things but I need to move on to my assignment, so that will have to do for now!